James O'Neill's Blog

February 7, 2010

Another trick of the Touch-Pro 2: Radio.

Filed under: Mobility,RSS — jamesone111 @ 8:20 pm

imageThe more I explore the features of the Touch-Pro 2 (and Windows Mobile 6.5 – or “Windows Phone” as the marketing people have it), the more I find to like.

Being a Sunday I found myself with other parents from the village standing beside a freezing soccer pitch cheering on our offspring (since mine was only on the pitch for half the time I spent most the time I was there just freezing). It’s at these kinds of times that two of the greatest comforts are Radio 4 and a cup of coffee. 

When I first got the device I found it had an “RSS Hub” program – this credits Ilium software and appears to be their News Break in all but name. I’d set it up to download the podcast of From Our Own Correspondent , a programme I never seem to get to listen to when it is broadcast. The downloaded Mp3 just plays in Windows Media Player. After that… I hadn’t given the FM radio on the device a try; it needs headphones plugged in to provide an aerial : I use an adapter to connect standard ones – HTC provide “in-the-ear” ones which I never find comfortable – with them it works as well as any other pocket radio I’ve tried.

It does surprise me just how may radios there are in this device.

* Phone / Data (3G / HSDPA / Edge/GPRS)
* Bluetooth 
* WiFi (802.11 b/g)
* FM Radio

I might be showing my age, but I’m still comparing this device to my original iPAQ – that had a 950mAh battery (non-removable), no memory socket, no keyboard, no radios (although it did have Infra-Red), and a volume of 172cc. In its 118cc the Touch-Pro 2 packs in a 1500mAh battery, all those radios, a Micro-SD socket, two cameras and a Qwerty keyboard. I’m genuinely stumped how they the electronics in the tiny amount of space not occupied by screen, keyboard or battery. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 17, 2009

Windows 7 : Photos, Gallery and AutoCollage.

Filed under: Beta Products,Photography,RSS,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 1:25 pm

imageWhen I first started using Windows Vista it was the better experience for photographers which really hooked me in. Most common image formats use the EXIF standard for embedding data about the picture (everything from the camera model and settings, to the title, keywords and so on. XP lets you look at this information in the file properties dialog, but vista introduced the the ability to set EXIF data from the main Windows explorer window, to search for picture titles from the start menu, and to sort, and build search folders based on Exif data (and it gives thumbnail previews – so you get the effect of a contact sheet). Storing data in EXIF is really important; photos get shared. If the data about a picture stays on the computer where it was edited and doesn’t follow the picture then someone who looks at it in years to come won’t get the “where and when” information. And if the data is stored in a database by a gallery package you’re locked into that package.

Vista also introduced “Windows Photo Gallery” , which added a little to what you could do from explorer. The Windows live team have adopted Photo Gallery, and it’s not pre-installed with Windows 7 (we have a link on the Getting started menu for Windows Live Essentials). As a 32bit app it actually works with the 32bit only RAW codec from Pentax so I can see what’s in those files. Photo Gallery does more than organize your photos: each version has introduced new bits under the heading of “fixing” photos:  PhotoShop it ain’t but it will crop pictures, straighten crooked ones ,reduce noise or sharpen soft images, fix red-eye; it’s got decent exposure correction features and will fix colour balance (if you haven’t seen the super cute demo* by 4 1/2 year on Kylie, the autofix combines these – as she says “I click – it’s better”)  and has even got the ability to do some black and white effects. It could do with a clone/heal brush, but otherwise its not bad. One annoyance is it has facial recognition – great – but it doesn’t seem to store the names of people found in the Exif data.
The other ambition for Photo Gallery is seems to be central point for “OK I’ve got my pictures … now what ? ” As Kylie shows, it has a hook into mail and there is the ability to upload pictures to web services – critically, the newest version supports plug-ins to support non-Microsoft sites (Facebook, flickr, smugmug and others).  You can start a new blog post in Live Writer with pictures in it too.
Then there’s also the ability to make a panorama – which has another cute kid demo, this time with 7 year old Alex. The panorama bits came from MS Research and they have a more sophisticated panorama tool “ICE” – the image composite editor. You can send images from Photo Gallery to ICE.  And this is the last of the extensions to the new version of Photo Gallery – the ability to send pictures to another program – so you can send them to Movie maker as well.

Now, in the 1.0 release of AutoCollage there didn’t seem to way to select photos other than giving it a whole folder to work with. This wasn’t too bad – I added a working folder to my send to menu and sent pictures to that before making my collage, but it was an extra step I could do without. The new 1.1 release (which doesn’t need a new key if you have bought 1.0)  hooks into Photo Gallery, so now I can select photos from where-ever and chuck them into a collage. If you take photos and haven’t tried AutoCollage yet you should get the trial version (And there is a flickr group to show what people are doing with it)

image Does Windows 7 do much more than Vista for photographers ? Not really – in fact since Gallery has moved into Windows live you could say it does less. But there is one feature which I’m almost ashamed to admit I love. It’s the menu you can see at the top – you can have multiple background pictures … as a slide show – Click on the thumbnail on the left to see how this is setup.

There is one other thing about this which can makes your machine nicer , and that is the ability to get pictures for the slide show from an RSS feed. There is a good post which describes this here. I must try creating my own feed for this.


* foot note. The kylie Demo is on Youtube, and there’s a great comment “Phrases you never thought you’d hear: (1) oh that’s the trombone player’s porsche  and(2) that new microsoft TV spot actually kicks ass.”

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 16, 2009

How to drive Twitter (or other web tools) with PowerShell

Filed under: Powershell,RSS — jamesone111 @ 11:40 am


First of all since I’ve mentioned twitter a few times recently I should say I have this cartoon of Hugh’s in my head as a warning.

After a 10 days on Twitter I’m qualified to talk about it like an expert … There are some obvious points of interest.

(1) Twitter Provides a web interface, it’s not great but there is a an API which is reasonably easy to code to. Hence there are a plethora of clients out there. Not all the clients follow the API as well as they might….

(2) A major issue for me is clients which don’t include “In Reply to” information – I see only part of a conversation. It’s not surprising that clients don’t bother with it because, there’s no documented way to search for “messages in reply to this one”. Worse, since there is no “conversation ID” (as there has been in Mail clients since the 1980s) when the web server can reconstruct a conversation it is not efficient. Reto-fitting one would require the clients to be updated…

(3) A major part of the value for me is not in following people as such but in watching topics.  I’m mildly amazed that  (a) There’s no search box visible, no Open Search Discovery, and the search link is at the bottom of the page so you don’t even know its there (b) Twitter itself doesn’t save your searches (c) not all clients save searches.

And so on.

I decided to that I’d write a little PowerShell so I could download information, and after pushing it around for a bit I’m ready to share the results, which is the following set of functions:

Get-TinyUrl – Gets a tiny URL for the a long URL
  – Publishes a new tweet (and shame on me, doesn’t bother with in reply to fields)
Get-Tweet  – Gets a tweet byID

Get-TwitterTimeLine – Gets my recent posts and those of the people I’m following
Get-TwitterReply – Gets replies sent to me

Get-TwitterSearch – runs a search has a -DEEP option to search back 1500 messages.
Get-TwitterPublicTimeLine – Gets recent non-private postings
Get-TwitterUserTimeLine – Gets the postings of a particular user

Get-TwitterFollower – Gets a list of who is following me (or someone else)
Get-TwitterFriend – Gets a list of my friends (or someone else)
Add-TwitterFriend – Adds someone to my friends list 

Here’s an example which shows just how easy the functions are to code  in PowerShell 

Function Get-TwitterReply { 
param ($username, $password, $Page=1)
if ($WebClient -eq $null) {$Global:WebClient=new-object System.Net.WebClient  }
$WebClient.Credentials = (New-Object System.Net.NetworkCredential -argumentList $username, $password)
([xml]$webClient.DownloadString(“http://twitter.com/statuses/replies.xml?page=$Page”)  ).statuses.status

– essentially 3 lines: (1) Get a new WebClient object (2) Set its credentials, and (3) Tell it to download a page of XML; force that from a text string to an XML document and get the /statuses/status XML elements. Each one looks like this (it’s not obvious but USER is a sub-element in XML). I can pretty up the output including displaying the name from the user XML element.

created_at              : Thu Feb 05 13:20:39 +0000 2009
id                      : 1179608029
text                    : @jamesoneill is on twitter too… Welcome!!!!
source                  : web
truncated               : false
in_reply_to_status_id   :
in_reply_to_user_id     : 20140468
favorited               : false
in_reply_to_screen_name : jamesoneill
user                    : user

Functions which POST to twitter need a bit more care, and I lifted Mike Ormond’s  code for this. If you are writing your own code note that twitter returns an error in response to POST commands “The remote server returned an error: (417) Expectation Failed.”, to avoid this there is a line in mike’s code

[System.Net.ServicePointManager]::Expect100Continue = $false 

Which tells the .net object not to send data in two stages with the server sending a “100 Continue” message between. Twitters server  doesn’t support that and responds with a 417 error. As far as I can tell the simpler WebClient object won’t work with this so I kept Mikes’s code for the WebRequest Object

My first use of this add the top ten posters about PowerShell to my friends list. With these functions I can do it 3 lines 

$f=Get-TwitterFriend $UserName $Password | ForEach-Object {$_.Screen_name}
$ps=Get-TwitterSearch “Powershell” -deep
$ps | group Author | sort count -desc | select @{name=”author”; expression={$_.name.split(“@”)[0]}}, count -first 10 |
       ForEach-Object {if ($f -notcontains $_.author) {Add-twitterFreind -id $_.author -user $user -pass $password} }

The first line gets my existing twitter friends and reduces the XML elements to an array of names.

The next line gets as many PowerShell posts as Twitter will allow – could export these to a CSV file and use them for something else; but here I group the posts by the author and sort them in descending order with most posts first.

The 3rd line is several commands piped together, and the most complicated piece is in the select:  the AUTHOR field, becomes the NAME in the output of the Group, operation  but it is the form UserName@twitter.com (Display Name). So select splits it at the @ sign, and names the result author, and returns the 10 ten. For each one if the Author isn’t already in my friends list, it calls add-twitter friend.

The next obvious thing was to Post to twitter from something on my blog, with $WebClient already set I can get the RssFeed for my blog, build the tweet text and Post it.

$tweet= $x.rss.channel.title+  ” : “+$x.rss.channel.rssitem[0].title + ” – ” + (Get-TinyURL $x.rss.channel.rssitem[0].link)
Publish-Tweet -TweetText $tweet -Username $user -Password $password


The whole lot is attached. As usual with these samples it is for illustration and is light on the error checking, and comes with absolutely no warranty whatsoever. (Check the site Terms and conditions)

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 12, 2009

Windows 7 federated search.

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 1:08 pm

I was a little surprised to find it was nearly 3 years ago that I first wrote about Open Search… So first off… 

Open search provides a specification for XML to describe search services. It’s easy to build this XML, and there’s a Microsoft Page which builds it for you, so here’s an example for IMDB, which I need to add to my Windows 7 installation:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">


<Description>IMDB provider</Description>


<Url type="text/html" template="http://www.imdb.com/find?s=all&q={searchTerms}" />



The XML tells something like IE 7 and 8 that there is a search, with a name and a description, and the URL to search it and return data as Text/html. IE can use a Link tag on a page that you are viewing to enable a context sensitive search here’s an example from OpenSearch’s own site.

<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" 
     href="/opensearch_desc.php" title="OpenSearch (English)" />

That was as far as my interest went when I first heard of Open Search, but there is a use for these descriptions in Federated Search. Federated simply means taking the results of more than one search and merging them together. But if every site comes back with an HTML page that is no good for merging, so Open Search defines an XML schema, or to be more accurate it defines extensions to RSS and Atom. Now the Description file can contain another URL line which specifies a type of “application/rss+xml”, or “application/atom+xml”. Each item in the RSS feed becomes a search result, and any search services which can return RSS format can be included in a federated search.

We already use that in our Enterprise Search products. What’s new for Windows 7 is that we use an OSDx (Open Search Description XML file) to add Federated Search parts to Windows Explorer. As far as I can tell, plain Open Search files can be used for this, but there is extra information which can go in, and the best place to start is this post by Brandon. So a OSDx file for twitter looks like this.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
  <Description>Search for a person @name, tag, #tag or anything  else</Description>
  <Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q={searchTerms}"/>

and the results look like this (click for a bigger version).


The key thing is that this could be any site (internet, intranet you name it) which can return search results as RSS or Atom, and once the search is defined you put a shortcut to it anywhere you’d have a shortcut to a folder.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 27, 2007

More halo 3 picture fun

Filed under: RSS,Xbox — jamesone111 @ 3:15 pm

warthog.sticker Driving home last night I heard Stephen McGill (who’s in charge of all things Xbox in the UK) on the PM programme (it’s about 40 minutes in if you want to use the “Listen again feature). He was talking about Gears of War winning the Golden Joystick awards. According to the BBC Xbox and Wii had a good night and Playstation had a miserable one. Halo 3 came out too late to be in the vote. I guess PGR4 and Bioshock were in the same boat, and I guess the timing spoils their chances for next year.

I have gears of War (thanks to a deal when I bought the Xbox-360), but I’ve not really immersed myself in it. Halo 3 is going to take up more of my time than I thought, the films feature is just fantastic. I wonder what people are going to do with the images (I’ve just discovered Bungie.net will give me an RSS feed to get to the images I upload, as well as one to give me all my game stats. Yikes, anyone can watch my stats and see what how badly I suck at multiplayer). The images are fascinating for the detail you find, not just in the lighting but the objects themselves. Just over 2 minutes into Cinema paradiso video (different sizes from here) one of the Bungie people says “I did not know that the Warthog actually had internal dash lights … and then I flying round and it’s like ‘What ? theres’ actually, like, lights in here ?”  Did you know that it had rubber mats in the foot wells, or the makers VIN sticker ? Look to the left …  This whole stop the action and view it from anywhere is … well to quote that Bungie guy again “The complexity of that system is SO insane”. OK it doesn’t make it any harder for the machine to render if you change the view point, and logging what objects are in the system and how they move, so you can render them again is a pretty simple idea. But

I’m a bit cross that the bungie guy says “The next thing you know they’re going to take the forge, and take saved films of that and add voice overs and do Macbeth” – I’m so cross he said Macbeth, because that’s the one play I’d pick; “Waiting for Goddot” performed by Spartans might have problems on a number of levels. I’m tempted to put together a Warthog brochure or a even a Warthog drivers club calendar. But… I’m concerned about copyright. Keep in mind that this only applies to the UK and I’m not qualified to give you an interpretation of the law, even If I do know my way round The Copyright designs and Patents  act 1988. (I recently had to refer someone to Section 30 (1) which says “Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement”).  and I thought I knew what it said about computer generated art. These seem to be the key bits

Section, 4 Artistic works (1) In this Part “artistic work” means— (a) a graphic work, photograph, sculpture or collage, irrespective of artistic quality

Section 9 Authorship of work  (1) In this Part “author”, in relation to a work, means the person who creates it. (3) In the case of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work which is computer-generated, the author shall be taken to be the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken.

Section 11 First ownership of copyright (1) The author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it, subject to the following provisions. (2) Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.

Obviously you should get someone qualified to interpret what “the arrangement necessary for the creation” of a snapshot from a halo game are and if there are other bits of the act you need to note. I’m going to try to find out what our stance is on other rights we have (e.g. the image rights of the Master chief). Sound like I need to get my own interview with Mr McGill. In the meantime here is a nice Warthog image to be going on with.



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

October 27, 2006

Good and not so good use of RSS.

Filed under: RSS,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 2:24 am

Every morning my postman puts 3 or 4 catalogues through the door. My wife’s late father had a printing company, and she still murmurs “more work for the printers” when this things arrive. It’s one of of the few causes of friction in the O’Neill household, because I try not not to get to get these things delivered.

I won’t take the free subscriptions to the various trade magazines either; and I wouldn’t put my name down for a print copy of technet magazine (though I’ll pick up a copy because it around in the office). I had an announcement earlier that “Beginning with the November 2006 issue, we will be publishing all TechNet Magazine content online in 7 languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, and Simplified Chinese)” 

There are a pile of articles on Windows Vista there right now: go and take a look.  

Of course you don’t want to keep going back to a web site and checking for new articles, and neither do I. I was a bit put out that the RSS icon in IE7 didn’t light up when I went to the site. There is an RSS link on the left of the page and you customize can the RSS feed to articles that interest you. They just need to make the feed discoverable.  The technical editor for the on-line magazine tells me he’s looking into fixing that .

and for those of you who are either descended from printers or just don’t like trees, you can sign-up for the print version here.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 20, 2006

Would Apple sue Scoble’s new company ?* . Don’t Google for Podcasts. And other stuff from my weekend reading.

Filed under: Apple,Beta Products,General musings,Music and Media,RSS — jamesone111 @ 3:16 pm

Before I was working for Microsoft,  I read Douglas Coupland’s book “Microserfs”. I visited Redmond in1997 and was amazed how close it was to the book. Half a dozen pages in Coupland writes “WinQuote … gives continuouse updates on Microsoft’s NASDAQ price … Most staffers peek at Winquote a few times a day … Last April Fools day someone fluctuated the price up and down by fifty dollars and half the staff had coronaries”

The value of stock roughly halved after I joined Microsoft in 2000 (not that I’m bitter about that), and we’re not quite so obsessive about it. But I  looked at last week’s stock buy back offer and felt “It must be worth more than that”.  According to The Financial Times I wasn’t alone. Disclaimer. This is not investment advice: consult someone qualified. The value of Microsoft shares can go up as well as down. Etc.

While I’m on the subject of Coupland. Some family friends recently opened a bookshop, and I picked up his latest “JPOD” last time I was in there (though I haven’t started it yet). JPOD is billed as “Microserfs for the Google Generation”, by the way, I love the home page for the JPOD book-site – and not just because the music listing includes an obscure cover of a Gary Numan song which I happen to have. I can’t remember the last home page I loved.

Back at the Financial times I read that Coupland or his publisher could be on the wrong end of writs from Apple and Google, who both appear to have been studying at the Gina Ford school of public relations.  Google want people to stop using their name as a verb. I can only think of a few tradenames which have become generic (like Kleenex) and also become a verb (you don’t Kleenex your nose though you might Hoover your carpet, or Xerox your documents).  Google don’t want me to talk about “googling” something on Windows Live Search, but while defending a trademark is all fine and good, “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the genie bottle” as one blogger put itThe Independent reports Dictionaries already include the verb “to google” and I was first aware of people using it in print when I read William Gibson’s 2003 novel “Patern Recognition” where it appears on the second page. In case you didn’t know, Gibson is famous as the man who coined the term “Cyberspace”.

Any Cricket fan will know of the term “Googly” maybe it will come to describe a kind of behaviour, and we’ll have to refine the verb “to Google” as “to search for people using terms to which you claim rights” , if Apple turn googly, they may complain about Coupland’s tittle as they claim to own the word “Pod”. I don’t know what we’re supposed to call the things peas come out of (no… not “freezers”) or groups of whales. I always thought that it was the ‘i’ part of iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhoto, iWeb, iLife which was the Apple specific part. Apple have gone after the makers of a datalogger called “profit pod”. If Yell can accuse Yellow wikis of passing off for using the colour yellow, how long before a name like Podtech attracts a “cease and desist” letter from Apple.

Robert Scoble is Podtech’s famous employee. He picked up a link from someone with no hands on experience of Zune, who asserts that it won’t have support for Podcasting: presumably non-Apple devices won’t be allowed to call it that . Robert, knows more about RSS than that, he linked to one of my posts about it.  Podcasting support is not in the iPod device, but the iTunes software. Sadly, I’ve no inside information about the Zune and I find the Zune blog by a Microsoft employee to be pretty feeble: so I’m forced to rely the same leak as everone else. That says nothing about the PC software and says that Wifi was disabled on the test device. Who knows what it will be able to fetch over wireless ?

That Zune story contains a reason why (if true) I might want one: built in FM transmitter. I was reading The 10 most annoying car innovations. My Citroen C5 has 5 of these 10 (and the automatic wipers and lights work well. It has lane departure warning – because it would have prevented an accident I was involved in last year). However Citroen have removed the Cassette player – it has a 6 CD multi-changer and a further CD player in the dash. I have to use an FM adapter to play WMAs and MP3 – which I do from my phone but it is such a fiddle to set up I rately bother. An FM transmitter would mean I could play music in the car and on any of the radios dotted round the house. This would be an inspired move, but who knows. Producing the player of choice for in-car use wouldn’t hurt the stock price.

Tagged as Microsoft Zune Apple  iPod Legal Google Gina Ford Yellow wikis

* Note I have no idea if they intend to or not: I’ve subtley changed the title from the original post so it doesn’t imply that they will.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 14, 2006

RSS in the Enterprise

Filed under: RSS — jamesone111 @ 12:46 pm

Before IE7 and Office 2007 Beta 2 I used Attensa to bring RSS Feeds into Outlook, I liked the product and I’m still on their mailing list, they just sent me a link to their white paper “Enterprise RSS: the center of attention” and it’s useful reading for anyone asking what RSS means for internal information, and the management of information overload.

Their blog links to a report on RSS by Jupiter Research which says

  • 63% of companies with over US $50M in revenue expect to use RSS by the end of 2006

  • In May 2006 when the report was produced, only 29% of these companies were using RSS.

  • 48% of companies who are doing RSS are spending $250K or more

With support in IE7 for RSS feed discovery and retrieval, Outlook 2007‘s ability to be a great reader for those feeds, and Sharepoint 2007’s ability to make any list an RSS feed, implementing RSS solutions is going to be both cheap and easy for a lot of customers. I predict now that as RSS becomes more widely available users will begin making demands for RSS couched in terms like:

  • Don’t fill my inbox with a hundred bits of new information

  • Don’t save up 100 bits of news and send me a huge news letter

  • Don’t expect me to visit your web site to see if there is new information.

  • Don’t Mail me lists of links to your web site either

  • Do allow me to carry your information on my laptop when I’m disconnected

All solved by RSS.


Tagged as

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 23, 2006

Vista DOES HAVE Podcasting! (but it’s a bit ugly). The RSS screen saver is built in too..

Filed under: How to,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 9:39 pm

Regular readers (if I have any) will know that RSS is one of my interests. So I noticed Robert Scoble’s post “Windows Media 11’s lack of Podcasting gets noticed” which in turn followed up a post on Geek News Central

For background:

  • Podcasts are just RSS feeds with Enclosures.

  • Internet Explorer handles finding and downloading RSS feeds including Podcasts

  • Applications – certainly Microsoft ones – should use the IE service and NOT implement their own RSS

  • To look at Windows Media Player, it appears that the Windows media Team have never heard of podcasts.

So how do you get a Podcast into WMP 11 ?

  1. In Internet Explorer 7: Find and subscribe to your podcast..

  2. Still in IE, click the “Favourites Center” (Gold star) button, select “feeds”, and right click your podcast feed and choose “properties”

  3. In the feed properties make sure the “Automatically download attached files” option is checked. If have to check it you may also need to refresh the feed at this point. You may also want to limit the number of stored files.

  4. Click the “View files” button, a file explorer window will open. Copy the path from the file explorer

  5. In Media player, click “Library”, the “add to Library”. Press “Add” and paste the path you just copied. Hey presto. Media player now has your podcast

If your feed is pictures then you can choose the photos screen saver and paste the path in there too.

By the way, this 5 line VBS script is all that is needed to get a list of feeds and their folders.

Dim rssMgr
Set rssMgr = CreateObject(“microsoft.FeedsManager”)
For Each rssfeed In rssMgr.RootFolder.Feeds
   If rssfeed.DownloadEnclosuresAutomatically then _
      wscript.echo rssfeed.Name & “is stored in ” & rssfeed.LocalEnclosurePath

MEDIA TEAM IF YOU’RE READING. There is no excuse for not putting this into Media player directly. Let’s see it in there before RTM eh ?

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 9, 2006

RSS Stumbler now available for download

Filed under: Beta Products,How to,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 1:25 pm

It was a pleasant surprise to get a mention from Robert Scoble, for my “RSS in 90 lines of code”, and the I’m pleased to announce that it is available for download.  Before give you the link, please be aware that

  • Only the source code is included, you need Visual Basic 2005 (or express edition) to compile it. There is very little in the way of error checking and coments.

  • This  is sample code:  Any use you make of it is at your own risk

  • I do not code professionally, as a sample, it shows how things might be done, not necessarily how they should be done.

  • Microsoft’s copyrights in the code are licensed to you under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (version 2.5).  To view a copy of this license, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/.  

If you would like a copy of the code AND you are happy with these conditions, right click here and choose save targets as.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 5, 2006

Programming RSS – a complete reader in just 90 lines of code !

Filed under: Beta Products,How to,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 9:24 am

I know – platfrom folks shouldn’t do code. But yesterday I wrote my first “proper” program in nearly 2 years. My university lecturers would hate me to call VB “proper” programming: but although I’ve done a some scripting I haven’t written anything with a user interface since writing a little Smartphone App back in ’04. Not only do I feel rusty, but I thought I’d try VB Express  for the first time

After reading the RSS team Blog I wanted to see how easy it was to use the API for RSS,  that is enabled by IE7. How difficult would it be to code with an updated language, and programming environment, and a new API ?  Astonishingly easy as it turned out. After 3 hours work I had a tool which will

  • Show your feeds and downloaded items in a tree view with unread items in bold (22 lines)
  • Shows item selected in the tree with its image, time stamp, and links to it and its feed (20 lines)
  • Let you mark the selected item as read or delete it (35 lines)
  • Resize properly (5 lines)
With 8 more lines of declarations and start up that’s 90 line of code. I doubt it will win any prizes, but it is a viable reader that can be printed on two sides of a page.
Here’s what it looks like.

So anyone who writes RSS software or wants to – leave the subscribing and downloading to IE, and get on and write something great on top of it. Newsgator’s CTO already gets this

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 25, 2006

RSS for the bewildered.

Filed under: Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 5:04 pm

The volume of web content is overwhelming. And it keeps changing – we could spend all day just checking discussions, news, blogs and so on in the hope of finding something new (a process I call “Optimistic Browsing“).
Shouldn’t stuff come to us ? After all, computers are good at polling. I don’t want it in my inbox – that’s like having the day’s TV or the supermarket’s special offers delivered with the post.

Enter RSS “Really Simple Syndication”. And it is Really Simple. It’s a standard for an XML document to give a list of items on a web site. Items in the list are either a self contained block of text, such as a blog post, or a link and a short explanation of what is found there, or something to download.

That’s it!! – a way of giving a list of items. Why get excited about that ? Suppose the XML document is dynamically created so that as content on the web site changes, downloading one document lets you see new stuff without the need for optimistic browsing making it perfect for blogs, or news – places where RSS has found a natural home.

If XML seems scary you can skip the next bit, but I wanted to show just simple an RSS feed for news can be: I’ve edited the BBC’s one down slightly but not much.

<?xml version=”1.0″>
<rss version=”2.0″>
  <title>BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition</title>
  <description>Updated every minute of every day</description>
  <copyright>Copyright: (C) British Broadcasting Corporation</copyright>
  <lastBuildDate>Thu, 01 Sep 2005 14:33:21 GMT</lastBuildDate>
   <title>Shots disrupt US storm evacuation</title>
   The evacuation of hurricane victims from New Orleans’ Superdome is disrupted after a helicopter is shot at.
   <guid isPermaLink=”false”>
   <pubDate>Thu, 01 Sep 2005 14:33:23 GMT</pubDate>

So a feed consists of one or more channels, which have one or more items.
A channel has a title, a description, and so on. It can tell the reader software how to behave – such as the number of minutes to wait before getting an update (the time to live or TTL).
I trimmed this channel down to one item: each item has a title, a description, a link, a Globally Unique ID (the GUID – the BBC use the page’s URL for this) and the publication date.Like channels, items can have extra tags.
You’ve probably heard of “Podcasting“, a podcast item is just like any other RSS item except it has an Enclosure Tag, like this:

  <title>Broadcast from September 1st 2005 </title>
   BBC correspondents take a look at stories in their regions.
  <pubDate>Thu, 01 Sep 2005 11:00:00 +0100</pubDate>
  <guid isPermaLink=”false”>
  <enclosure  url=”http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/radio4/xxxxx.mp3″
   length=”8473360″    type=”audio/mpeg”   />
The only things which has changed is the enclosure tag replaces the link tag, and says what to download. Yippee ! I can download radio shows and listen to them at my convenience.
But wait… The enclosure is a URL and a mime type. Who said it has to be an MP3 file? It could be photos, calendar items, software updates, homework assignments, document templates, product information. In short not Podcasting but Anycasting. This blogcast by Darren Strange  shows how the next generation of Sharepoint will make lists into RSS feeds – and how Outlook 12 will be able to consume them. Darren’s video is only 14 minutes long, but if you’re in a hurry to see the RSS stuff skip forward to 5:45

Now, when we get Windows vista we get a new version of Internet Explorer – IE7 Beta has been back-ported to Windows XP. IE7 understands RSS (and other formats like Atom, which do the same job). There’s a good summary about it in the RSS team blog  .IE 7 recognises links to RSS on a web page, it manages subscriptions and downloads and offers a simple view of the feeds. But the power is in NOT using IE as a viewer. It’s simple for other applications to use the content – a screen saver which shows your pictures can leave fetching and parsing the XML documents to IE.

You may have already got an RSS reader – I’ve been using Attensa for Outlook 11 – I don’t want the stuff in my Inbox, but Outlook is the best reading tool I have – Eileen talks about other readers  Putting RSS into IE won’t make the readers go away the CEO of Newsgator makes some good points on this.

Here’s an easy prediction, with RSS reading in Outlook 12, RSS support in IE7 and all sharepoint 12 lists available via RSS it’s going to be very big over the next year or two.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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